Huff Finds Love at the Arboretum


As you might know, Huff is not a fan of travel. Not even local travel.

Dog parks freak him out. He is fearful of other dogs. We are working on it but for now, our policy is avoidance. 

So the trick was to find a place where dogs were allowed. But that they didn’t go to very often. Kind of a problem.

The Quest

The beach allows you to see farther and therefore avoid other dogs. But, it is wet and sandy. Huff is not a fan of those things.

Visiting friends doesn’t work. Those without pets do not want pets in their house. (Totally understandable.) Those who do welcome pets already have dogs. A problem.

Or they have cats. He is civil toward cats unless they run, in which case he is obligated to chase them. See the Dog Handbook section 8.2  paragraph 3, “Things that Must be Chased.”  But in the human world, it is considered rude to chase one’s host (or their pet), even if they hiss at you first.

He doesn’t like crowds of any kind – people or pets. He isn’t particularly fond of  men with gray hair. Or adults who run. Kids and women are ok. Kids are really ok.

So any place without a lot of people, or dogs, or bad weather conditions, or other animals would be fine. Which means:

No beach.

No jogging trails.

No dog park.

No open air markets or street festivals.

The fast food drive thru is great but I’ve seen Supersize Me.  Neither of us needs that. Huff is probably willing to risk it, but I am not.

I continued my quest and found:

A Nirvana

It is a beautiful park with brick walking paths and open grassy areas.  The paths gently wind around the flowers and decorative sculptures. To walk the entire park does not take long. It is an experience meant to be savored, not rushed through.

Which suits us fine.

Dogs are allowed. Hooray!  But since the winding brick paths are not good for exercising, joggers and people with energetic young dogs (the bane of Huff’s existence) generally avoid it.

This is our local arboretum, a place I am pleased to support with my tax dollars.  A great deal of the landscaping work is done by volunteers. Huff and I are grateful for all of these folks.

The beautiful setting makes it a great spot for photography. Brides love it and so do parents of young children.  Nature photographers flock there. Even amateurs like me can frame up an attractive shot in this setting.    

Huff's Happy Place

On our first trip we stayed on the paths. I encouraged Huff to follow me onto grassy areas, but he was reluctant. I didn’t push the issue. It was a new place. I wanted him to enjoy the excursion, not endure it.  We  found an out of the way space near the back that he accepted as safe. He had some treats and some water.

On our next trip, there were fewer people but more small kids.

I coaxed him onto the lawn, gradually. He looked furtively left. Then right. He does the same on our walks. He pauses at every hedgerow, alert  for a surprise attack. He scanned the entire lawn for threats.  He seemed to like the feel of the soft grass on his paws.  Who doesn’t?

Once he assured himself there were no other dogs, he was content to lay at my feet while I sat on a bench. We had some water. A couple of treats.

He relaxed, even closing his eyes for a bit to savor the breeze.

This was so different from the dog I took to the beach. Or to the park.  Seeing this version of Huff made me realize how tense he normally is. And made me even more grateful for this space.

Huff Makes a Friend

There were no dogs that day, but a lot of children.  He loves to watch the little ones. He is gentle and patient. Best of all, the children love him.

A toddler was enjoying the freedom of the open space and giving her dad a work out in the process.  She really wanted to pet the dog, which I assured her father was safe. She had two big dogs of her own at home, so she was completely unafraid.  

She held Huff’s face gently in her hands and planted a kiss on his nose. I am sure I heard her father’s heart stopped as his daughter’s face leaned in toward those unknown teeth. But Huff just accepted the love. She ran off. But she hadn’t forgotten him.

I told Huff what an awesome dog he was, but he already knew that. He soaked in the warmth of the winter sun.

He was still lounging when his new friend circled back, putting some distance between herself and her father. She was running toward her mom, so Dad wasn’t worried. Suddenly, she pivoted 90 degrees heading right toward Huff. I alerted Huff, who was looking the other way, that she was coming. I didn’t want him to be startled. He glanced in her direction.

Before he Dad could reach her, she threw herself at Huff  landing on top of him. My heart stopped this time. With his aging hips, we all know how bad that could have been. Huff simply turned his head backward and gently nudged her. She hugged him. A nearby photographer snapped a cute picture. I did not ask for a copy of the picture, because asking for a picture of someone else’s kid, even with my dog, felt a little creepy. Or maybe I was little choked up.

As you might imagine, Huff got extra treats. But for him, the biggest treat was being outside lying on the grass, with little ones loving on him.

 I like to think it brought back memories of happier days. He deserves a little happiness - a lot of love.